MOSCOW, November 9 (RIA Novosti) - Twenty people died and 21 others were hospitalized iin an accident on board a Russian nuclear submarine in the Sea of Japan, the Navy said on Sunday.
The accident occurred late Saturday during sea trials when the Pacific Fleet submarine's fire-extinguishing system unexpectedly activated. The incident is the worst for the Russian Navy since the sinking of the Kursk submarine in 2000 when all 118 sailors died.
Russia's Investigative Committee earlier said the accident had left 20 dead, including three sailors and 17 shipyard workers, while 22 people were injured. Investigators said that the victims died as a result of suffocation when deadly gas was released on the submarine.
Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo, an aide to the Russian Navy commander, said on Sunday that 208 people, including 81 service personnel had been onboard the submarine at the time of the incident. He said that the sub's reactor had not been affected and radiation levels were normal.
A high-ranking source in the Pacific Fleet said the accident had occurred in the nose section of the submarine and confirmed that it had not damaged the submarine's reactor.
The construction of the Akula II class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine started in 1991 but has been suspended for over a decade due to lack of funding. Akula II class vessels are considered the quietest and deadliest of Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines.
The Nerpa had started sea trials on October 27.